Amherst Residents for Environmental Accountability (AREA)

NEW: Second Roux Associates' Report:

  • The old landfill is leaching 1,4-dioxane, a known landfill-associated carcinogenic contaminant (pages 4 and 8 of the report)

  • 1,4-dioxane above the drinking water standard was detected within the “DEP Approved Wellhead Protection Area (Zone II)”  (page 9)

  • The Town selectively analyzes the data to argue that “significant contamination” has not been observed (page 4)

  • There is "a likely connection between the landfill and drinking water resources" and "potential bedrock contamination originating from the landfill, which requires further investigation with additional bedrock wells." (page 10)

    CLICK HERE to read more

    CLICK HERE to read the complete report

    CLICK HERE to subscribe to email updates. We will never share your email or use it for any other purposes.

    Please consider contributing to the effort of protecting Amherst's Water Supply! Click here for more information.

In the News

  • SunEdison, the company selected by the Town of Amherst to install solar arrays on the town's landfills, looses almost 90% of its stock value and has a class action lawsuit filed against it for the failure to disclose its unsustainable level of debt and unsustainable business model. Click here to read more.
  • The Town of Amherst was in the press just recently for a much smaller water quality problem that took a fine and three years to correct. Click here to read more.

We have a much bigger problem than just solar on a substandard landfill cap.
Are we waiting for Amherst to become a second Flint, Michigan?

According to the letter from the Massachusetts DEP, the KC Trail conditions depicted on the pictures below are the result of "stripping of naturally occurring iron and manganese from the soils due to the organic loading of the former landfill. ... The only parameter above any standard was arsenic in certain sediment locations ... and a quantitative risk assessment for the presence of the arsenic ... was shown to pose no significant risk to human health."

According to the Second Roux Associates Report:

  •  "the risk associated with certain contaminants has not been addressed at all. Specifically, the risk posed by 1,4-dioxane to human health and the environment is unknown because 1,4-dioxane was not identified as a “contaminant of concern” and was therefore not considered when the human health and ecological risk assessments were conducted for the landfill and surrounding wetlands. The omission of 1,4-dioxane in the human health and ecological risk assessments is likely due to the high detection limits utilized by the Town and subsequent ignorance of the prolific nature of 1,4-dioxane originating from the landfill."
Click on pictures to see a bigger image
KC Trail ConditionKC Trail ConditionKC Trail Condition
  • 1,4-dioxane was detected in the monitoring well in the Zone II Aquifer Protection Area in the concentrations substantially (~50 times) exceeding the drinking water standard: "In short, the water in MW 4-08 is considered drinking water and the measurement of 1,4-dioxane at 14.4 μg/L constitutes a condition that must be reported to MassDEP and handled under the MCP." (page 9)
  • "The source of this “significant contamination” may be attributable to drums historically buried at the landfill: Sometime prior to approximately 1980 up to 50 drums with content described variously as “paint,” “oil-based paint,” “most likely paint,” and “chemical waste” were buried at the landfill over 50 feet below ground surface." (page 8)
  • There is "a likely connection between the landfill and drinking water resources... The presence of 1,4-dioxane in both MW 4-08 and MW 5-08 indicates potential bedrock contamination originating from the landfill, which requires further investigation with additional bedrock wells." (page 10)
It increasingly appears that the Old Landfill's abutters were just a canary in a mine that discovered the much bigger problems of the landfill leachate entering the Amherst's drinking water aquifer, described in the Roux report. To protect our drinking water supply, we have to push the Town acknowledge the problem, start monitoring the dioxane contaminant as suggested in the report and plan steps for proper remediation.

CLICK HERE to read more.

AREA Mission: The AREA Group is dedicated to preserving the Old Amherst Landfill as an open, green and environmentally safe space.

AREA Goals: To enforce proper capping and monitoring of the site, stop the leachate leaks and prevent further contamination of the surrounding wetlands.

Contact us at if you want to participate or contribute.

The Problem: The old landfill's cap is deteriorating and leaking contaminants into the surrounding wetlands. The landfill was never properly capped: the 1985-1987 closure of the landfill violated the requirements of the 1985 DEP Closure Permit. Recent test data from 2007 and 2010 DEP reports show that the cap further deteriorated and is currently leaking as much as 940 gallons/acre/day of leachate that enters the groundwater. The  contamination has already spread to conservation wetlands as far as half a mile away from it, which are located in the primary aquifer recharge area.

NEW: Independent Environmental Evaluation of the Old Landfill Site: Area Group engaged Roux Associates to perform an independent environmental evaluation of the Old Landfill and its suitability for hosting a large solar array. The evaluation not only confirmed our concerns, but also found that site closure was even more sub-standard (6 inches of clay) than the already reduced depth of  8 inches. This is just 50% of the 12" clay depth required by the 1985 standards, and 33% of the 18" clay depth required today. The research has found that the site is letting 150 times more water in than was allowed by the original DEP design, and 1500 times more than it is allowed by today's landfill capping standards. The study concludes that:

  • The landfill's assessment and capping is incomplete
  • The landfill is poorly maintained
  • The recent regrading did not address the problems of the substandard clay cap
  • The landfill is an uncontrolled source of pollution to the environment
  • Using the site for a large solar array is in a direct contradiction with The Guide to Developing Solar Photovoltaics at Massachusetts Landfills document issued by Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.
 Click here to view the complete Summary Report of the environmental evaluation by Roux Associates.

NEW: Analysis of the DEP Annual Site Monitoring Data uncovers an even more disturbing picture: When the Town rejected the conclusions of the report (click here to read the Town's response) without backing them with factual data, Roux Associates analyzed the Town's response and rebutted all of the Town's assertions based on factual scientific data.

In addition, Roux Associates analyzed sampling data from the DEP annual site monitoring reports. The results presented an even more disturbing picture of the current condition of the landfill site and its cap, confirming our worries:
  • 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogenic contaminant, leaking in the Zone II aquifer protection area (pages 4, 8 and 9 of the report)

  • the Town undercounts the number of drinking water standard exceedances in the groundwater, 5 instead of at least 27 (page 4)

  • The risk posed by 1,4-dioxane to human health and the environment is unknown because 1,4-dioxane was not identified as a “contaminant of concern” and was therefore not considered when the risk assessments were conducted for the landfill (page 6)
  • The Town selectively selectively analyzes the data to argue that “significant contamination” has not been observed (page 4)

  • The landfill maintenance is sub-standard (page 7), and “Significant contamination” has already been observed, demonstrating that the landfill cap is not effective in its current state (page 3, 5 and 6)
  • The effects of additional stress of a solar array on a landfill like the Old Amherst landfill are highly uncertain. It is likely that installation of a solar array on the landfill in its current state will substantially intensify the amount of contamination discharging from the landfill and pose a risk to public health, safety, and the environment (page 11). In addition, such an installation will significantly increase the future remediation costs and may limit the future remedial options (page 12).
Click here for more information, or click here to read the complete Roux Analysis of Town Response.

The Projects: An original project proposed by the Blue Wave Capital, LLC planed covering 30+ acres of the site with an industrial solar installation with 20,000 panels, with 4.75 MW peak power, but a meager 0.6 MW average output throughout the day. Installing a huge solar array on a deteriorated landfill cap with settlement problems presents enormous environmental risks. The original project was cancelled, and a new  project by Sun Edison is now in the planning stages. The new project targets both the new and the old landfills, with 2.8 MW being planned for the old landfill installation.

Questions: The group questions the wisdom of a such installation compared with alternative solutions that install solar panels on the roofs of municipal and school buildings that would directly benefit the town without endangering the environment. Roof installations would allow the town to use generated electricity right at the source, instead of selling it to the grid and then repurchasing it with the delivery surcharge added.

It will be impossible or prohibitively expensive to fix the landfill's cap if 20,000+ solar panels are installed on top of it, and the contamination by the leaking leachate will continue for the next 30 years, causing a wide range of environmental problems.

Legal Issues: The project is in violation of the State Grant the town used for capping the landfill. The State Grant Agreement required the town to preserve the site for recreational use and record a  Deed Restriction for recreational use of the site. The State Grant also required the Town to cap the site according to the specifications of the DEP Closure Permit, which were never satisfied. Click here on information about the actions taken by the group.

Actions: AREA retained a local attorney who is an expert on zoning and land-use, and set up a Trust Fund for all contributions to the group's mission. Click here for information about the recent actions.

Click here for more information on the current condition of the old landfill site.

Click on pictures to see a bigger image

The first block of pictures was taken just recently, in March of 2016. Compare them with the rest of the pictures below that were taken before the recent regrading.

According to the
Roux Associate Summary Report (page 3), "regrading does not modify the contour of the cap or further increase the cap thickness. Instead, water that was once visible surface water will still be present, but will exist below the surface of the regraded areas. This water is still available to infiltrate the thin, permeable cap."
The pictures shown below were taken before the regrading.

Settlement and Water Ponding Problems in the middle area

A big portion of this water will seep into the landfill, get contaminated and enter ground water.

According to the 2007 DEP report, the "impermeable" clay cap is leaking 150 times more than allowed by the original Closure Permit. 940 gallons/acre/day of leachate are produced by precipitation infiltrating through the existing landfill cap. Click here for more information.

Problems near the circular access road

The planned regrading does not address the condition of the clay cap: it simply adds more soil on top. The cap already has 24 inches of soil on top of it, and adding more will not restore impermeability of the clay layer. Alternative remediation methods must be explored.

Problems near residential homes

Unlike the Pittsfield Brownfield, a former leveled industrial ground with compacted soil, the Amherst landfill ground is soft and sagging, a bad fit for supporting a huge solar array with heavy inverters, transformers and concrete ballast beams to support each of the 20,000+ panels.

Problems near the entrance (Northern area)

It will be impossible to monitor and fix developing problems as they occur if the landfill is covered with thousands of solar panels. The current leakage problem must be addressed before contemplating any additional load on top of the already deteriorating cap.

The landfill is a giant sponge soaked with toxic chemicals. Because it is unlined, these contaminants are slowly leaching out of the landfill into the ground water. The combined weight of thousands of tons of industrial equipment will push the cap down, squeezing the sponge. This will accelerate the leaching process, threatening the Town's drinking water supply.

Problems in the Southern Area

There is no data on the long-term effect of placing such a big load on the landfill cap. When the cap cracks, it will unleash an environmental disaster that will negate any projected financial and environmental benefits of the project.

Tracks from equipment used to drill monitoring wells

The landfill leachate enters groundwaters and contaminates surrounding environment. The wetlands of the Hop Brook Drive (located just 100 yards away from the Lawrence Swamp Water Protection Area for the Town's drinking water wells) and Gull Pond (located off the Old Farm Road) already have concentrations of contaminants exceeding WQC and MassDEP groundwater standards and SSC sediment guidelines. Urgent actions are required to prevent further contamination.
Contaminated water seeping through the ground

Street sweepings left from
the dumped snow

The capital investment company will subcontract all work and will be long gone by the time the landfill develops caps problems, which will leave the Town footing the bill.

Contact us by email at: